Daily Streaming Guide: March 18th Edition

Continuing on with my Daily Streaming Guide for worthy titles available on various services – let’s call today the Alex Garland Edition. He’s the director behind both science fiction titles that are highly worthy of a look:

Netflix

We begin with his intelligent 2015 effort about artificial intelligence – Ex Machina starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander. Made for a reported lowly $15 million, this is the type of sci-fi that Stanley Kubrick probably would have been proud of. Machina even won the Oscar for Visual Effects over high-profile features like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It also features one of the greatest out of nowhere dance sequences in cinematic history in my view.

Hulu

Garland’s excursion into high minded sci-fi continued with Annihilation, his 2018 follow-up. The visually stunning experience featuring Natalie Portman and Isaac (again) has themes that will stick with you post credits. And just like Ex Machina features a scene that floored me, so does this. The former involved dancing. The latter involves a human and a bear sharing the same voice. You’ll see what I mean. It’s terrifying and thrilling simultaneously.

I’ll be back at it soon, folks! Until then…

NBR Goes Green

The National Board of Review bestowed its annual honors today for the pictures of 2018 and they went green. That means it was a very good day for Peter Farrelly’s race relations drama Green Book and it might have come at just the right moment. It won Best Film at a time when its box office performance has been lackluster and lead Viggo Mortensen got into hot water for remarks at a recent event. The last three winners of the NBR top prize (Mad Max: Fury Road, Manchester by the Sea, The Post) all received Picture nominations at the Oscars (it’s worth pointing out that none of them won).

I don’t expect Green Book to emerge victorious at the Academy Awards, but this does help its case for a nomination. The NBR is also unique in that it names 10 other movies as their favorites beyond the big recipient. The list this year is as follows:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Black Panther

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Eighth Grade

First Reformed

If Beale Street Could Talk

Mary Poppins Returns

A Quiet Place

Roma

A Star Is Born

Over the past decade or so, usually 5-7 of those 11 honorees go on to Oscar recognition. In addition to Green Book, I’m currently assuming Black Panther, If Beale Street Could Talk, Roma, and A Star Is Born are in. That’s five. I’m also growing more confident that Mary Poppins Returns could manage to reach the final nine or ten nominees. The rest remain question marks. Eighth Grade and First Reformed seem to be gaining steam, but I’m uncertain they’ll get all the way to the top. The three that I believe are least likely are Can You Ever Forgive Me?, A Quiet Place, and Buster Scruggs. 

Bradley Cooper took Directing honors for A Star Is Born and he’s already a safe bet for Academy inclusion. His costars Lady Gaga and Sam Elliot took the Actress and Supporting Actor races. All in all, it was a fine day for A Star Is Born. Elliot’s win is a boost for him and it’s a little surprising they didn’t name Green Book costar Mahershala Ali, considering the film’s other successes today.

Speaking of Green Book, the aforementioned Mr. Mortensen took Best Actor. He’s looking good for an Oscar nod, but I still put him behind Cooper and Christian Bale (Vice) when it comes to winning possibilities.

Regina King’s work in If Beale Street Could Talk earned her Supporting Actress and she’s a lock for Oscar inclusion.

Paul Schrader’s original screenplay for First Reformed was honored for the second day in a row after its Gotham Award. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had Reformed just on the outside of my nominated predictions in that category. I foresee that changing on Thursday when I update them… though I’m uncertain which entry falls out between The Favourite, Roma, Vice, and Eighth Grade. Barry Jenkins took Adapted Screenplay for Beale Street and he’s got a real shot at the gold statue.

The notable snubs on the list are primarily BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, First Man and Vice. However, it’s worth noting again that plenty of movies have missed the NBR cut and managed Oscar glory.

As for some down the line honorees – Incredibles 2 won Best Animated Film, RBG took Best Documentary, and Cold War got Best Foreign Language Film. All seem bound for the final five a couple of months from now.

And there’s your NBR report, folks! The New York Film Critics are on deck next and I’ll have a recap of that one Thursday!

The Best Picture Wouldn’t Have Been Contenders: 2009-2017

A couple of days back on the blog, I speculated about what films in the 21st century would have been nominated for Best Picture prior to a rule change in 2009. As a refresher, nearly a decade ago, the Academy changed its Best Picture Nominees from a finite five to anywhere between five to ten. In that time frame, the magic number most years has been nine (it was actually a finite 10 for 2009 and 2010 before the fluctuation change). My recent post selected two pictures from 1990-2008 that I believe would have been nominated. You can find that post here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/03/the-best-picture-coulda-been-contenders-1990-2008/

Today comes the inverse of that column. What if the rule had never been altered? What if the last nine Oscar ceremonies honored just five features?

In making these picks, there’s obviously one extremely easy selection – the movie that won. In naming the other four, I’m looking at factors such as number of other nods it received. For instance, if a Director won that award for their work and the Picture went to something else, that director’s film is in.

So let’s get to it in this alternative Oscar universe. I’ll be reminding you all the pictures recognized and then showing my final five.

2009

The Actual Nominees:

The Hurt Locker (Winner), Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

Had It Been Five:

The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

2010

The Actual Nominees:

The King’s Speech (W), 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Had It Been Five:

The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, True Grit

2011

The Actual Nominees:

The Artist (W), The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Had It Been Five:

The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris

2012

The Actual Nominees:

Argo (W), Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Had It Been Five:

Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

2013

The Actual Nominees:

12 Years a Slave (W), American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street

Had It Been Five:

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street

2014

The Actual Nominees:

Birdman (W), American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Had It Been Five:

Birdman, American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game

2015

The Actual Nominees:

Spotlight (W), The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room

Had It Been Five:

Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

2016

The Actual Nominees:

Moonlight (W), Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

Had It Been Five:

Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

2017

The Actual Nominees:

The Shape of Water (W), Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Had It Been Five:

The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And there you have it with my posts on the “what if” Best Picture happenings in Oscar world!

The Dark Knight Legacy: 10 Years Later

Ten years ago tomorrow, The Dark Knight was unleashed into theaters. Looking back at the summer of 2008, you could argue that the two most important superhero pics in recent memory were released in that short time frame. Two months earlier in May of that year, Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe which now stands at 20 films strong. Yet it was The Dark Knight that set box office records and brought critical appreciation of the genre to new heights. In a genre that has exploded in the 21st century, many consider this to be the crown jewel. I believe it’s certainly up on the Mount Rushmore.

A decade prior to its release, Batman had run into some trouble at multiplexes with the deservedly derided Batman and Robin. It was a disappointment both commercially and with reviewers. Joel Schumacher’s two run experiment with the iconic character had dissolved into campy non-fun. In the new century, Christopher Nolan was brought in to resurrect the franchise after making Memento and Insomnia. 

2005’s Batman Begins would achieve that goal, but that was not apparent immediately. Despite glowing reviews, Begins started with $48 million at the box office and $206 million overall domestically. Those are solid numbers but some context is needed. That’s nearly $50 million less than 1989’s Batman made 16 years earlier. In other words, it wasn’t obvious that the eventual sequel would turn into a phenomenon.

That’s what happened. The Dark Knight had the advantage of pitting Christian Bale’s Caped Crusader against his most known foe, The Joker. Many questioned whether Heath Ledger (coming off an Oscar nomination for Brokeback Mountain) had the goods to fill Jack Nicholson’s shoes. Early trailers indicated the answer was yes. And he nailed it with an unforgettable performance. As we know, Ledger never got to witness the acclaim. He died six months before the picture’s release and it added a tragic level of publicity leading up to the premiere.

Once Knight was released, expectations were sky-high and it earned $158 million out of the gate. That was an opening weekend record which has since been surpassed by 14 movies including its sequel The Dark Knight Rises and seven other comic book themed experiences.

The Dark Knight still stands as the 10th highest grossing movie of all time and fourth biggest superhero effort behind Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and The Avengers. It received eight Oscar nominations – something previously unheard of for something in its genre. That stands as another portion of its legacy. While Ledger would posthumously win Best Supporting Actor for his work, many figured The Dark Knight should and would nab a Best Picture nomination. It didn’t. And that caused the Academy to expand Best Picture from a finite five nominees to anywhere between five and ten (nine has been the major number most years in the decade following).

While no comic book film has managed a Best Picture nomination since then (Black Panther could change that this year), that rule change has perhaps allowed non-traditional awards material like District 9, Nolan’s own Inception, Gravity, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mad Max: Fury Road, Arrival, and Get Out to garner nods.

And The Dark Knight, for many moviegoers, proved what comic book lovers had known all along. This material, done right, could truly be a work of art.

Oscar Watch – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

For 22 years now, the Mission: Impossible franchise has been a sturdy and profitable one for its star Tom Cruise. Two weeks from now, the sixth picture in the series Mission: Impossible – Fallout hits theaters stateside. Early reviews have been quite impressive with some critics hailing it as the best movie of the bunch so far. One prominent critic went as far to say it’s the best action flick since Mad Max: Fury Road. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 96%.

In case you forgot, Fury Road got itself a Best Picture nomination. That seems highly unlikely for Fallout, but it’s fair to speculate whether voters will choose to honor it in any way. If they do, it would probably be in a technical category or two with Sound Editing and Sound Mixing being the most obvious. Fallout is being hailed for its amazing action sequences (if there was an Oscar category for Best Stunts, that race could be a wrap).

Of the five Mission‘s that have preceded this, they have a collective Oscar nod count of zero. Just that fact makes it a long shot that part 6 receives any attention. However, if some of the tech category voters want to throw it a bone, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Tully Box Office Prediction

A brave airline pilot executes a miraculous landing on the Hudson River…

Ok, wrong movie as Jason Reitman’s Tully is delivered to theaters next weekend. The comedic drama stars Charlize Theron as a frazzled mom who gets some help from a kindly sitter played by Mackenzie Davis. Ron Livingston costars.

Tully debuted at the Sundance Film Festival to strong critical notices and it sits at 93% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The film reunites Theron with her Young Adult director and screenwriter Diablo Cody, who also scripted Reitman’s Oscar nominated Juno. It’s a break from the action for Theron after pics including Mad Max: Fury Road, The Fate of the Furious, and Atomic Blonde.

Scheduled to debut on a rather low 1200 screens, Tully may open to a fairly smallish gross with hopes of legging out well in future weekends.

Tully opening weekend prediction: $5 million

For my Overboard prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/04/24/overboard-box-office-prediction/

For my Bad Samaritan prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/04/28/bad-samaritan-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Blade Runner 2049

24 hours can change the dynamic considerably at this time in the Oscar season. When I made my weekly Oscar predictions yesterday, Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying was ranked 8th in my Best Picture possibilities with Blade Runner 2049 outside at #13.

Yesterday, support for Flag wavered a bit with a mixed critical reaction stemming from the New York Film Festival. On the other hand, Blade has sharpened its chances with reviews coming out this morning. Denis Villeneuve’s continuation of Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi pic from 35 years ago is drawing raves (it’s at 97% currently on Rotten Tomatoes). The word “masterpiece” has been thrown around by some critics.

Bottom line: its chances for a Best Picture nomination have risen dramatically. Just last year, Villeneuve’s Arrival scored eight nominations, including Picture and Director. That could happen here again. While I doubt any of the actors (including Ryan Gosling and the return of Harrison Ford in the role of Deckard) will hear their names called, there are other races in play. This includes Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Editing, both Sound categories, and Visual Effects (where it will almost certainly be named).

And then there’s Cinematography. Again, a nomination for its cinematographer Roger Deakins seems virtually assured. If so, it will mark his 14th nomination. The list of films he was nominated for? The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Kundun, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn’t There, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, The Reader, True Grit, Skyfall, Prisoners, Unbroken and Sicario. Number of wins? 0. There’s definitely a feeling that Mr. Deakins is long overdue for his gold statue and the 14th time could be the charm.

When I made my box office prediction for 2049 earlier this week, I compared my $44.1 opening weekend estimate to Mad Max: Fury Road from two years ago. As of this morning, I’m thinking the opportunity is there for it to come close to Fury‘s 10 Oscar nominations too.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Blade Runner 2049 Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (10/04/17): I have revised my estimate up from $44.1 million to $52.1 million

Arriving 35 years after Ridley Scott’s now classic science fiction work, Blade Runner 2049 hits theaters next weekend. The sequel has been in development for pretty much the entire 21st century. The reported $185 million production is headlined by Ryan Gosling as an LAPD officer in a dystopian future who ends up teaming with original Blade Runner Deckard, played by Harrison Ford. Denis Villeneuve, hot off his Oscar nominated hit Arrival, handles directorial duties with Mr. Scott executive producing. Costars include Jared Leto, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, and Dave Bautista. 

Fans of the 1982 original are many as Blade Runner has become a beloved genre pic. One legitimate question: are younger audiences familiar enough with the source material? It may not matter much as early word-of-mouth for 2049 is very encouraging. Official reviews won’t be out until next week, but screenings have indicated this is a satisfying visual feast like its predecessor.

So how high can this open? The current October opening record belongs to Gravity at $55 million. Even with the positive buzz, I don’t see 2049 running that high. Tracking has indicated $40-$45 million and that sounds about right. In fact, a $45 million opening would match the debut of 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, another entry in a franchise that was dormant for decades and made a rousing return.

I’ll put this just under that mark for what should be a solid opening for Columbia Pictures, as it’s likely to perform well overseas too.

Blade Runner 2049 opening weekend prediction: $44.1 million

For my The Mountain Between Us prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/09/27/the-mountain-between-us-box-office-prediction/

For my My Little Pony: The Movie prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/09/28/my-little-pony-the-movie-box-office-prediction/

Oscars 2015 Reaction

Well – after months of prognosticating the nominees and the winners of the 2015 Oscars, the season officially came to a close last night. This was a truly unpredictable year at the Academy Awards and it bore out with my so-so performance at just 13/21 on predictions. There were some REAL surprises last night and plenty of races that went according to plan. Let’s break it down with my various takes on the telecast and the winners:

  • The three picture race for the top category was just that with Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight winning over presumed front runner The Revenant (which was my prediction). The journalistic expose won only one other category (Original Screenplay, which I correctly predicted) and it’s the first Best Picture winner to be victorious in only two categories since 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth.
  • Speaking of history, expected recipient Alejandro G. Inarritu is the first Director to win (for The Revenant) twice in a row (2014’s Birdman) in 65 years.
  • The sixth time was finally the charm for Leonardo DiCaprio as he picked up a golden statue for The Revenant, as he was widely expected to.
  • The female acting competitions went according to plan: Brie Larson in Actress for Room and Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl in Supporting. Same goes for Foreign Language Film (Son of Saul), Animated Feature (Inside Out), Adapted Screenplay (The Big Short), and Documentary (Amy), even though I went with the upset pick of Cartel Land.
  • Sylvester Stallone was the heavy favorite in Supporting Actor for Creed, but the Academy instead went with Mark Rylance’s work in Bridge of Spies. This category has had a history of upsets (Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine over Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls circa 2006) and this is indeed another one.
  • It was a good night in the technical categories for George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road as it picked up six awards: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Costume Design, Editing, and Makeup and Hairstyling. It was nominated in Cinematography, but that went as anticipated to The Revenant. The big shocker in the tech categories was Ex Machina‘s out of nowhere win for Visual Effects. This truly was a massive upset as I would have picked it fifth to win over competitors Mad Max, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Martian.
  •  While Best Score went as planned to legendary Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight (for which he learned a long and deserved standing O), the Song category honored Sam Smith’s Spectre theme “Writing’s on the Wall” over expected winner “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga from The Hunting Ground, just moments after her peformance was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden.
  • As for the show itself, Chris Rock’s handling of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy was handled with the edgy humor you’d expect from one of the greatest stand up comedians of all time. The telecast, per usual, was way longer than it should have been. The idea, however well intended, to allow winners to thank various people via a scroll at the bottom of the screen didn’t serve its intended purpose. Look for it to be gone next year. As solid as Rock was in his hosting duties, I couldn’t help but watch Louis C.K.’s brilliant introduction of the Best Documentary Short Subject race and hope that the Academy tabs him to host like… next year.

And there you have it! Another Oscar season that’s come and gone. Before we know it, I’ll be predicting the 2016 films and performers that could be recognized a year from now…

Todd’s FINAL 2015 Oscar Predictions

One week from tonight, the 88th Annual Academy Awards will air with Chris Rock hosting and unlike some other years, there is real and legitimate intrigue as to what will win the big prize in Best Picture. Meanwhile, other categories have strong front runners but upsets are always possible. So with seven days to go, here are my FINAL predictions for who will win in each categories, with the exception of the three short film races. Here we go!

BEST PICTURE

For Room, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, Brooklyn and Bridge of Spies – it’s an honor to be nominated. This is truly a close race between the trio of The Big Short, The Revenant and Spotlight and any one of them could easily emerge victorious. All have won important precursors. Of the three, my gut is that Short is running third in this tight derby. All week my inclination has been to pick Spotlight, but The Revenant seems to have the hot hand in these late proceedings.

FINAL PICK: The Revenant

Runner-Up: Spotlight

BEST DIRECTOR

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu looks poised to win his second directing prize in a row after 2014’s Birdman for his work in The Revenant. If so, he would be the first auteur to do that in 65 years. In my estimation, only George Miller could be an upset winner for Mad Max, but that’s doubtful. Inarritu has won the Golden Globe and the DGA and is a safe bet.

FINAL PICK: Inarritu

Runner-Up: Miller

BEST ACTOR

Speaking of safe bets involving The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio at last looks poised to win a gold statue. He is the heavy favorite over competitors Matt Damon, Michael Fassbender, Eddie Redmayne and Bryan Cranston.

FINAL PICK: DiCaprio

Runner-Up: Ummmm… Cranston? Seriously, Leo is a major favorite

BEST ACTRESS

Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) and Charlotte Rampling (45 Years) could be spoilers, but the front runner is definitely Brie Larson’s turn in Room.

FINAL PICK: Larson

Runner-Up: Ronan

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

If the Academy doesn’t go for nostalgia here, you might see Mark Rylance win for Bridge of Spies. Yet I do believe Sylvester Stallone will knock out his foes for Creed.

FINAL PICK: Stallone

Runner-Up: Rylance

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) has won some precursors and Rooney Mara (Carol) stands an outside shot, but Alicia Vikander had a big 2015 and I’ll pick her for The Danish Girl.

FINAL PICK: Vikander

Runner-Up: Winslet

For the remainder of the categories, I’m simply listing my picks with the runner-up:

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

FINAL PICK: Spotlight

Runner-Up: Inside Out

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

FINAL PICK: The Big Short

Runner-Up: Room

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

FINAL PICK: Inside Out

Runner-Up: Anomalisa

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

FINAL PICK: Son of Saul

Runner-Up: Mustang

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

FINAL PICK: Cartel Land

Runner-Up: Amy

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

FINAL PICK: The Hateful Eight

Runner-Up: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

FINAL PICK: “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

Runner-Up: “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey

BEST SOUND EDITING

FINAL PICK: The Revenant

Runner-Up: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SOUND MIXING

FINAL PICK: Mad Max: Fury Road

Runner-Up: The Revenant

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

FINAL PICK: Mad Max: Fury Road

Runner-Up: The Revenant

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

FINAL PICK: The Revenant

Runner-Up: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

FINAL PICK: Mad Max: Fury Road

Runner-Up: The Revenant

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

FINAL PICK: Carol

Runner-Up: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST FILM EDITING

FINAL PICK: The Big Short

Runner-Up: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

FINAL PICK: Mad Max: Fury Road

Runner-Up: Star Wars: The Force Awakens